The 5 best baby car seats for 2019
We put the UK’s best car seats through their paces and, after months of exhaustive testing, have finally found our favourites. Here are our baby car seat reviews.
Deciding which car seat to buy for your newborn is a big decision to make – and rightly so. With so many different options to choose from and so many car seat laws to get to grips with, you may well feel confused.
But fear not. We've been hard at work researching and testing the best car seats on the market to bring you all the information you need to make the right choice for you and your baby.
So which car seat is best? Read on as we take you through our top five, as recommended by parents.
Quick side note: you'll also find lots if advice on everything from car seat regulations to ISOFIX in our handy buyer's guide.
How real-life comparative testing makes Mumsnet Reviews unique
We commissioned journalist and parent Alison Williams to research and write about baby car seats.
Alison is a mum to two grown-up children and has experienced every stage of the parenting journey. As a journalist, she has written articles on a wide variety of parenting subjects including reviews of the best breast pumps for Mumsnet.
As well as listening to parents on the Mumsnet forums and poring over bestsellers lists, she spent time talking to safety experts: Nick Lloyd, Acting Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Margaret Bolt, founder of Rear Facing Toddlers, and Jan James from Good Egg Car Safety. Jan also answered Mumsnet users' most commonly asked questions in our FAQ video below.
After approximately 30 hours researching crash tests results, safety regulations and prices, Alison created a longlist of 25 top-performing products. This was narrowed down to a shortlist of 14 to be tested with a family over a four-month period.
To do this, Alison partnered with parent tester, Sam, mum to twins (who were five months old when testing began) and a seven-year-old, who put each car seat through its paces in her Citroen C3 Picasso Exclusive and her sister’s Citroen C4.
While it would be quicker and cheaper to send the products out to different testers, we believe that consistent scoring and like-for-like comparisons are crucial.
Following testing, five products were awarded a Mumsnet Best badge – these are the products that we feel offer the absolute best value for most parents.
And the results are in. Here are the five best baby car seats for newborns.
Watch our video round-up of the top five baby car seats
1. Maxi-Cosi Rock: Best Versatile Baby Car Seat 2019
The Maxi-Cosi Rock is a versatile first car seat that will provide a snug and safe environment for a newborn, and it's ideal if you know you'll be switching between cars a lot.
It can be installed using a seatbelt or ISOFIX fittings (although you do, unfortunately, have to buy the ISOFIX base separately) and it's even TUV-approved to be used on an aeroplane.
- Versatile and lightweight (weighs only 3.9kg)
- Can be attached to a travel system if you have the right adaptors
- Newborn inlay adds extra security and support
- Features a newborn recline position
- Ergonomically-designed carry handle
- Cover can be washed in the machine
- Can only be used up to 12 months
- Pricey if using only with a seatbelt
- ISOFIX base isn't included
Great for parents who
- Need a lightweight car seat that can be moved easily between cars
- Travel often
- Want a seat that's simple to use
- Suitable from: Birth to 75cm (around 12 months old)
- Safety credentials: i-Size (R129), impact absorbing materials and side impact protection
- Fixing system: ISOFIX or seatbelt
- Weight: 3.9kg
- Guarantee: Lifetime
- RRP: £169 (ISOFIX base sold separately)
2. Mothercare Ziba: Best Value Baby Car Seat 2019
At just £35, the Mothercare Ziba is proof that you don't have to spend a fortune on a car seat to make sure that it's comfortable and safe.
It's a breeze to install with a seatbelt, which will be music to most parents' ears, and it's one of the simplest to use on a day-to-day basis as well.
Weighing just 3.5kg, this lightweight infant carrier is a no-frills car seat that will see you through the first 12 months.
- Quick and simple to install, reducing any margin for error
- Harness can be tightened with one hand
- Very light to carry
- Did we mention the price?
- Covers aren't machine-washable
- Sunshade is quite flimsy
- Inner padding feels a little basic
- Not compatible with a travel system
Great for parents who
- Are on a tight budget
- Have a car without ISOFIX points
- Suitable from: Birth to 13kg (around 12-15 months)
- Safety credentials: R44/04 and side impact protection
- Fixing system: Seatbelt
- Weight: 3.5kg
- Guarantee: Two years
- RRP: £35
3. Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size: Best Extended Rear-Facing Car Seat 2019
Britax Römer's Dualfix i-Size, aka 'The Throne', is an extended rear-facing car seat that's designed to keep your child in a rear-facing position from birth up to the age of four.
While it is a huge seat that'll likely take up most of the back seat, it's well padded with a specially-designed insert for newborns, it has no less than 12 recline positions (bonkers, we know) and it's a swivel seat that can be rotated 360 degrees. This means that it'll be really easy to get your baby in and out during the dreaded nursery run.
- 360-degree rotation
- 12 recline positions
- Machine-washable seat cover
- Can be used from birth right up to four years – that’s approximately 200 weeks and 1500 days of use
- Huge seat that takes up a lot of space
- Tricky to install
- Not travel system-compatible
Great for parents who
- Want to keep their child rear-facing for as long as possible
- Have a big car
- Suitable from: Birth to 105cm (or age four) – forward-facing from 76-105cm
- Safety credentials: R129, Stiftung Warentest (2.1), ADAC (2.1) and ÖAMTC (good) and side impact protection
- Fixing system: ISOFIX
- Weight: 15kg
- Guarantee: Two years
- RRP: £430, but widely available for less than £400
4. Joie i-Spin 360: Best All-Round Baby Car Seat 2019
The Joie 360 spin feature is so useful.
Like the Dualfix i-Size, the Joie i-Spin 360 can be used from birth until your child reaches four years old and, as the name suggests, it's a swivel seat too.
We think the Joie is a great all-rounder as its ISOFIX fittings make it one of the easiest car seats to install and it has a very reasonable price tag considering the longevity it offers. It's a bit too heavy to be carried between cars, but the 360-degree rotation makes it easy to wrestle a screaming baby into the seat without breaking a sweat.
- Swivel seat – makes it easy to get your baby in and out
- Extended rear-facing
- Easy to install
- Six recline positions, including a lie-flat recline, that can be adjusted on the go
- Chunky padding
- Removable covers for washing
- Floor leg fixture is a bit fiddly
- Design makes it difficult to carry the seat to and from the car
Great for parents who
- Want their child to rear-face up to age four
- Often travel on long car journeys
- Suitable from: Birth to 105cm (or four years old) – rear-facing from birth to 105cm and forward-facing from 15 months to 105cm
- Safety credentials: R129, Smart Ride™ lock-off, Guard Surround Safety™ panels for side impact protection and Tri-Protect™ headrest
- Fixing system: ISOFIX
- Weight: 13.9kg
- Guarantee: Two years
- RRP: £300
5. Cozy N Safe Arthur: Best for Birth to 12 Years 2019
The Cozy N Safe Arthur ticks all the boxes and (big plus) it could be the only car seat you'll ever need to buy! Designed to grow and adapt with your child, this seat can be used from birth all the way up to 12 years old.
It's a hard-wearing, well-designed seat with an adjustable headrest and a four-position recline, including a 155-degree angle for newborns. While it can only be fitted with a seatbelt when it's rear-facing, you do have the option to use ISOFIX points when it's safe for your child to face forwards.
With loads of padding and an in-built ventilation system, the Arthur will keep your child safe and comfy no matter their age.
- Frame reinforced with steel and padded with high-density polyurethane foam
- Adjustable headrest
- Four-position recline to a 155-degree lie-flat angle for newborns
- Extended rear-facing car seat
- Covers are machine-washable
- Tricky to install when using seatbelt fixings
- Can only use ISOFIX for forward-facing travel
Great for parents who
- Want a seat that will last for the long haul
- Suitable from: Birth to 12 years – rear-facing from birth to 18kg (or four years) and forward-facing from 9-36kg (approximately nine months to 12 years)
- Safety credentials: R44/04, side impact protection, steel frame for improved structural strength and energy absorption
- Fixing system: Seatbelt for rear-facing and seatbelt or ISOFIX for front-facing
- Weight: 12.5kg
- Guarantee: 12 months
- RRP: £299.99 but widely available for between £159-£200
What are the different types of baby car seats?
UK law states that a child needs to be in a car seat up to the age of 12 years old or 135cm tall (whichever comes first).
Car seats are based on either weight or height, depending on which regulation they follow. Seats under the R44 regulation are weight-based and seats under R129 are height-based.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of cars seats that can be used with a newborn:
1. Infant seats
These are also called Group 0 or 0+ if they're not i-Size seats, and are designed to be used up to around 12 months. They:
- Are smaller and lighter than combination seats
- Sometimes compatible with travel systems
- May come with a newborn insert for tiny babies
2. Combination car seats
Also known as Group 0+/1, these seats are designed to adapt to a growing child and can be used from birth to approximately four years old. Some can even be used all the way up to 12. They:
- Are long-lasting
- Often come with removable inserts for smaller babies
- Are bigger and heavier than infant seats
- Are designed to stay in one car
What is i-Size?
i-Size seats meet the new R129 European car seat safety standards that came into force in July 2013, which aims to increase the safety performance of all car seats on the market.
R129 regulations are currently running in parallel with R44 so you can buy car seats that adhere to either guidelines. At some point, R44 car seats will be phased out of the shops – but it's unclear exactly when this will happen.
What are the differences between R44 and R129?
- Classification based on weight
- Rear and front impact testing
- Can be fitted using seat belt or ISOFIX points
- Seat must be rear-facing until your child weighs 9kg
- Classification is based on height
- Rear, front and side-impact testing
- Seat is attached with ISOFIX points
- Seat must be rear facing until your child is older than 15 months
Questions to ask a retailer before buying a seat
Not all car seat retailers – even accredited ones – get it right. You should challenge anything an expert says that you don’t feel is right and, before they recommend you a car seat, do make sure they ask you the following:
- Your child’s weight
- Your child’s height
- Your child’s age – this will determine if you need a rear-facing seat (you will if you have a newborn)
- Your vehicle's make and model, plus other vehicles the seat might be used in
- If your vehicle has ISOFIX
- If your vehicle has underfloor storage
- If your seat has a top tether – this is a piece of seat belt material with a hook on the end that is attached to the designated anchor point behind the back seat
Watch our car seat FAQ video
Here, Jan James from Good Egg Car Safety answers some of the most frequently asked car seat questions:
- What is ISOFIX, and is it safer than a seat belt? (00:00:17)
- How long can a newborn stay in car seat? (00:00:50)
- When can babies legally go in forward-facing car seats? (00:01:43)
- How tight should the straps be? (00:02:37)
- Why buy a £300 car seat when you can get one for £30? (00:03:08)
- Can an infant car seat be in the front seat of a vehicle? (00:04:34)
- Can I use a second-hand car seat? (00:05:01)
How much should I spend?
Prices range from £30 to over £400, but it's not always the case that the most expensive seat is the best.
All car seats have to pass the minimum safety criteria laid out by the R44 regulation to be legally sold, but many of the bigger brands do their own independent tests at higher speeds. Some have even passed the Swedish Plus Test, which is the world's strictest car seat test.
Overall, consider your budget and always check independent reviews before making any decision.
Can you use second-hand car seats?
A car seat's main job is to protect your baby and, for that purpose, it tends to be a single-use item. You can use a car seat until you have an accident, at which point it must be thrown away and replaced.
While second-hand seats aren't necessarily unsafe, if you buy a seat from someone you don't know you have no real way of knowing the seat's history. This may not be the case if it's been passed down from a relative or a friend, but even if the seat looks fine, it could still have suffered invisible damage that has made it weak or unsafe.
As such, experts from Good Egg Car Safety recommend never buying a second-hand seat.
How we tested and why you should trust us
For continuity, we try to get one tester to test all the products in a single category. This reduces any potential variables during the testing process.
The car seats were all scored on the same criteria – safety, stability and comfort, assembly, day-to-day use, aesthetics, cleanliness and value for money – with the five highest scoring products coming out on top.
Safety, stability and comfort
We looked at factors including:
- Crash test results
- How easy each seat was to attach and detach
- How useful and effective the designated fixing systems (seatbelt or ISOFIX) were to help parents avoid making any dangerous mistakes – was there was any room for error?
- Straps and harnesses, particularly when it came to clicking them into place and adjusting
- Padding and other safety features
- Switching from rear- to forward-facing, where applicable
- Materials – were they durable and robust?
- How comfortable the baby was in the seat – were there any parts that could rub the skin or cause irritation? Were all fittings, including the harness, baby-proof?
- How distracting the seat was for the parent when driving – did the seat obscure their view? Were the colours too bright?
We checked that:
- Each seat came with all the parts necessary to install
- The instructions were clear and easy to follow – if ambiguous, we made note
- There were helplines or online videos for extra guidance
Day-to-day use and comfort
- How quick and easy it was to get the baby in out and of the seat (and timed the whole process)
- Whether or not they were able to fall asleep comfortably and if the seat could be removed with a sleeping baby still inside
- For longevity – could the seat grow with the child?
- Each seat on busy school runs, shopping trips, long car journeys and quick trips throughout the day, looking at both comfort and convenience
Aesthetics and cleaning
We looked at:
- Whether the seat was easy to clean – we spilled milk and juice on each seat to see how it fared after cleaning and checked for removable covers that could be thrown in the washing machine at a moment's notice
- The overall design of the seat, including colours, materials and thoughtful touches
Value for money
- Price and evaluated whether each car seat offered good value for money – could it be used up until the age of four, or even 12, and was it affordable for the majority of parents?
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